Tuesday, November 25, 2014

review of "Map of Heaven"

At Costco last week, I ran across the new bestseller "A Map of Heaven." Later, for various reasons, I decided to go ahead and buy the kindle edition, which I read on my Kindler paperwhite (A great product for me). Here is my review for Amazon, and then some further comment:
This review is from: The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People Are Proving the Afterlife (Kindle Edition)
This book could be very useful to some people in breaking free of restrictive illusions about life, but it really needs a bit of balancing as well.
It reminds me of what I tell some friends: "After all my work to understand many things, I feel as if I were a hundred miles up suspended on a huge ladder. When I look down, I feel as if I know and see so much co mpared to all the craziness and small scale confusion down there. as I look up, I still feel like a worm compared to what I don't know and the vastness of what is out there." This book, too, is somewhere in the middle, though it has its uses and the topic is very important.
If you are one of the many people who would be inspired by the book (legitimately), I would urge you not to stop there.The book has interesting references, but I would urge you to also read (in order) Connie Willis's book Passages, Steiger's In My Soul I am Free, Jane Roberts' trilogy of oversoul seven, and -- if you can find it -- Joel Whitton's last book. Above all, it's important to keep a sense of balance and not underestimate your uncertainty as you grope with these important issues. More can be said about the important topic of reconciling science and mysticism ( I have a little introduction on that myself up at the open online journal Rose-Croix), but that gets to be beyond the scope of a review. All of us have a lot more to learn here.


In other words -- the book is half true in a very important way, and I might even follow up on a few of the things it says, but it is also half false in a very important way. 

The  book reminds me of the movie "What Dreams May Come"  which I was glad to see years ago. I even bought the video for my mother who is about 90 now. But it was a shock when Robin Williams, who played the lead in that movie, committed suicide. That's one of the things I think of when I say people need balance. (Hell, after Luda rightly got me to read Clancy's book Threat Vector, I very deliberately bought and reread Olaf Stapleton's First and Last Men, because I could tell I needed more balance; it was about $1 on kindle.)


In my review, I didn't mention that quantum physics should be changing a whole lot this year from what it was last year. This book, like many others (Pribram and Neville?) tries to use quantum mechanics to try to reconcile the world of science and the world of our personal experience -- but it relies on semi-popularized versions of various strands of quantum mechanics from last year. My previous post gives a much more up to date account, which is quite different. It talks about consciousness and quantum mechanics from the viewpoint of someone who would build a conscious system. In a way, the issue is one of mathematics, and mathematics remains a valid language no matter what spiritual plane you could ascend to.  "Even in heaven, 1+1=2 in the realm of integers."

I have a more recent paper which addresses the relation between real, emerging quantum mechanics and the experience of spirit or soul in a much more definite and fine-grained way than this book could (given that the author is not aware of the new quantum mechanics), requested by Menas Kafatos collaborating with Deepak Chopra -- but for now I must wait; you don't want to hear all the details of where it sits. 

A key element of reconciling personal mystical or paranormal experience with hard core physics is a concept which serves as a bridge between those two worlds: the idea of a "noosphere," a kind of shared collective mind which we are part of. This is a very old concept (which raises its credibility in my view), but my new paper strengthens that bridge. The brain itself has a certain level of consciousness, but the noosphere has a higher level, fully incorporating all the principles in my previous post and some more which I left out because humans are not really ready for them yet at a scientific level of discourse.


And so, I would claim that all this "travel in heaven" or "astral travel" that people have talked about for millennia is really just a kind of journey of the mind in the Mind, processed allegorically through constructs created by Mind.
If you have read vedas and upanishads and yoga  enough to have a map of THEM in your mind, you will immediately notice how familiar this view is.

Many groups talk about the ascent from lower levels of consciousness to higher levels. It is possible to reconcile and make sense of this diversity of views.

In a way -- the progression from "OOBE in this world" to etheric to astral to mental to cosmic is a progression from a part of the outer senses of the noosphere to more intermediate and abstract things (coded by constructed metaphor, just as brains use the hippocampus to encode stuff), moving on up to more direct contact with Mind as such. This book talks about that progression, from the author's personal experience -- but it is only a fuzzy introduction to the progression.

From late fall 1972 to about Christmas 1978, I experimented VERY intensely with my own personal experience, to try to get direct primary personal data on what goes on at the "spiritual" level. 
(Based on that experience, BEFORE I had the theory background I do now, I wrote a 100 page very simple manuscript which I showed some Rosicrucians. My understand is 'way past that now, but it gives a nice very comprehensible explanation  for experience, practical not theoretical, giving some of the real history of how I got where I am today. I scanned it into my computer a few weeks ago, and may eventually post it somewhere.) The period started when a suitemate of mine showed me a simple paperback book, called something like "How to Help Yourself with ESP," which I would have laughed at and ignored two years before. But then, in 1972, I wanted more data; I did not even ask whether I BELIEVED the book. I just tried the experiments it suggested, so that I could get data to find out for myself. When two of the experiments worked much better than I had really expected... that opened a door, and I explored many things. But in Christmas 1978, I started work for the US government, and had to change my schedule. I already had a lot of data to digest anyway. 

And... there are plenty of things which kept happening even when I did not have time for the specific kind of personal experimentation I had time for then. In a way, I mostly gave up the astral but developed more on what they call the cosmic consciousness level. That's serious.

Some people, when they first reach that level, get blown away with euphoria.
(That reminds me of another book I could have recommended, Voyage to Arcturus by Lindsay,
where he talks about a next-to-final stage where people get blissed out and need to move on.) Maybe some people feel that way about their first day away from home at college.  If they visit only one day, they can stay vague and blissed out forever. I guess it's good for them that they go through that stage (though my path was always a bit more balanced and steep).  It's also very good that they properly value their new life... and (as above so below) get down to work. Challenges never end for us here on earth.

But stages of life certainly do vary. On February 15 this coming year -- three months from now --- I am scheduled for the final break from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  THAT'S a complex and important story, but not for this morning. Maybe I'll start back more experiments then. The one resolution I have converged on is that I will go to Quaker meeting almost every Sunday -- NOT as part of an effort to "get into heaven" which sounds silly to me) but as a natural part of experimentation and growth, the most reliable vehicle I know of, robust with respect to the other fluctuations and uncertainties I know of. But that will account for only a few hours every week. There will be plenty of other stuff, which I will adapt from day to day in a way I could not before 2/15/15.

I am glad that one of the central people in the local Meeting is a long time mental health practitioner. From one quick, oversimplified viewpoint -- the most important spiritual task before us right now is to try to assist our noosphere to get into a state of greater "sanity," a concept which we can now understand much better than we could in earlier decades when we understood less about mind and intelligence in general. (My 2012 paper in the journal Neural Networks talks a lot about sanity or zhengqi for the individual human, but "as above, so below.")   

In fact -- in past years, many people have asked "Is God crazy?" The God of Luria's cabbalistic mysticism... is basically a schizophrenic. It is not sane just to run away and hide from the scary nature of that question.

Especially when someone might have a plausible answer.

When people ask "Is God (really, just our local noosphere) crazy?" --  I always think back to an event on our breakfast porch in College Park years ago, when I shared a house with the McGrath family and with Wedge Greene. We had a fun evening playing with the Losscher sp?) color card psychology test. The test said: "Do not use on children under 18."  But we did anyway, just for fun; we all did the test. When Katie (then quite young) took the test, it said something like:
"You feel so threatened by some younger and up and coming that you have really deep mental problems which need immediate treatment -- unless you are under 18, in which case it's just part of the normal development process." So, in a way, Gaia is like what Katie was. However, earth, unlike Katie at the time, really has the means of its own destruction at hand, already moving, and I see no guarantee that we will survive -- bodies OR souls. I have a lot more thoughts about where we are headed, and the difficult challenges we really need to face up to -- but we are NOT called to just assume that all will be well (or that we are doomed).


I am tempted to go on a bit more and mention and encounter with a real big dragon a few weeks ago 
in "the astral plane" -- the first one like that in my life, despite decades of awareness of many metaphorical dragons of many types. But I suppose it would have to be too long, especially given the complex connections to politics in the US today. (And the US itself is of course not an isolated system.) Maybe later. Best of luck.


Maybe I should be a bit more precise here, for those who seek the whole truth or prefer precision.

The first question may be: "Does heaven exist or not?" Yes or no?

Well, it doesn't have to be yes or no. Very often we humans create binary choices, in cases where the truth is something else altogether.

Could we say... that the "heaven" which Alexander has indeed experienced, and is indeed important, is as real and as important as an internet chatroom? Even more real, insofar as it engages more of our senses and feelings and has more powerful supporting hardware and apps?

In my view, the true map of this heaven is like unto a map of the contents of the internet... which is not the same as a map of the physical internet and underlying algorithms and architectures which support it.  Many Hindus would say that this heaven is totally an illusion, a construct of the mind. Some go further and say that the reality we call physical and material is itself just a hard part of the same coral reef of illusion. But I do not go that far.  Actually, I do not claim to know the answers to all the questions which arise at this level -- but it seems clear to me that internet chat rooms and
"heaven" as Alexander has experienced it are useful, respectable constructs created by our minds.
How could one possibly see a movie like What Dreams May Come (which is very close to what Alexander depicts) without understanding that one is looking at constructs of the mind in that place?

At a deeper level than the map of content in this internet of the mind... is the map of how it works,
of what it interfaces with, and of the dynamics which actually govern and change the content.

This is where the "noosphere" concept comes into it.  The noosphere is not just a very big mammal brain or human brain. It has at least two additional capabilities hardwired into how it works. One is a capability to send information forwards or backwards in time -- as in my other recent post on what can be done with quantum computing.  Another is what I call "multimodular architecture,' which is vey different from what computer scientists usually think about when they string a lot of fixed modules together. In essence, the noosphere is made up of lots and lots of "individual souls" or primary modules, along with matrix and miscellaneous types of support neurons.  The mathematical principle which underlies multimodular design is SYMMETRY.

Symmetry is important even in the design of less intelligent and less conscious systems, like mouse brains and even fish brains. Even fish brains have an ability to create mages of what the fish sees, images which somehow map from what the fish sees to an image of what is there. There is a surface in those brains, which contain "maps" representing an image.  Symmetry is crucial, because explains why and how these "maps" can actually represent DIFFERENT parts of what the fish sees. There is an old paper by Olshausen  (in Arbib's first compendium)  which gives  a beautiful simple mathematical sketch of that limited kind of symmetry.  They key idea here is this: the neurons in that part of the surface can handle images taken form DIFFERENT parts of what the fish sees; they can learn universal relations, applicable to all the different parts of what the fish sees.

The noosphere exploits the same principle, at a higher level. It includes a mechanism to map between what is seen by one individual soul and what is seen by another.  This is hugely important to understanding the "spiritual experience" of our lives.

Even human brains do include a very primitive version of this same noosphere symmetry mechanism, which helps us in understanding and strengthening the spiritual side of our nature. We have the most advanced form of "mirror neurons" to be found in organisms on earth. These neurons give us a capability for empathy, an ability to see or even imagine the direct experience of other people,
and to encode it into our memory as if it were our own experience. (Of course, in those memories, we can encode which subject is having the experience -- "I" or someone else.) When society encourages the exercise of empathy,  it raises the level of intelligence or consciousness of the society, and also assists in the evolution of the soul, all else equal. (Of course, if society does this by discouraging independent thinking, it may end up making things worse.)

But the noosphere system is much more powerful than the mirror neurons built into human brains.

For me, even after 1978, half or more of my spontaneous "astral type" experience has involved what Roscrucians call "assumption." Basically, I get to experience life directly from the viewpoint of another person, usually because that person calls out inside himself or herself for someone like me to come in and help out somehow. ( I do remember the old books Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K Dick, and Players at the Game of People by Blish. Both books deviate in some major way from the reality, but they help a bit.) Sometimes I just observe. Sometimes I observe and comment to the person. Sometimes the person even asks me to come in further and actually speak or do something -- and sometimes they ask for more, while other times they recoil and I get out of there very quickly.

This relates to the old concept of "avatar" in India. It reminds me of the scene in Jane Robert's trilogy where there is character in a mental institution who says he is Jesus Christ. The odd thing, in her novel, is that he is and he isn't, both at the same time. He fills himself deeply enough with that "spirit" (soul or archetype?) that he can do amazing things with healing and positive feelings, real things, but he is not really the same person.

It is actually possible to stack these relations.  The most I have seen is A visiting B who visits C who visits D.

This is not just theory for me, by any means. I have had enough veridical stuff  to leave no doubt in my own mind.

But at the end of the day -- the earth and its noosphere is just a very, very tiny and mature part of a large galaxy, within a much larger universe, which may or may not be part of something even larger still.  We need to avoid delusions of grandeur -- delusions which have been the downfall of many many otherwise advanced minds. The earth itself presents enough  challenges to us.

Many followers of spiritual or mystical paths focus all their energy on trying to improve their personal soul. That is an extremely important activity, in my view.  Our ability to survive physically as a species on earth depends a lot on our mobilizing a higher level of sanity and consciousness than what I see right now in the dangerous politics of earth, and the spiritual side is essential to our hope of doing that. Yet it is also important to remember that "we are all one," that the soul of the earth as a whole  needs to rise. In fact -- it is meaningless in a way to say that an individual soul has attained a higher level, just as it is meaningless to say that an individual neuron in a brain has reached a higher level ITSELF; it is meaningful only in the context of the larger mind or brain of which it is a part. Governments have often abused this idea, by confusing our connections to the noosphere with connections to the commissars they appoint to foster the personal interests of a few people; such people are not devils, but they are a real threat to our survival and to their own survival as well.

I have mentioned a lot of worthwhile authors here -- but not yet Orson Scott Card. Card clearly has extremely deep and important spiritual experience, and I have even learned a few fundamental (veridical) things from some of his books -- yet some of his writings on politics worry me to the extreme. The higher we rise on some levels, the more essential it becomes not to accidentally "step on a big nail."

Best of luck,


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